July 23, 2007 in Features

magic

Dan Webster I The Spokesman-Review
 

And so, now we have the end of Harry Potter. Or at least we’re at the end of J.K. Rowling’s series of best-selling “Harry Potter” novels. The obvious question to ask next is what will readers, and/or parents of readers, do to fill the vacuum left by the departure of Rowling’s young wizardly hero? Don’t laugh. Not only is the publishing industry bemoaning the demise of the Potter series, the effects of which have had international impact (Rowling’s books have been translated into 65 languages), but readers of all ages are likely to feel an even greater loss.

According to one wire report, a college professor from Allentown, Pa., adapted a drug/alcohol addiction survey to gauge the emotional responses of Potter fans. His verdict?

“I anticipate that for the hardcore fan who spends three hours online, writes fan fiction or does fan art, we’ll see some mild depression and withdrawal, some sleep and appetite disturbance within 24 to 48 hours of finishing the book,” said Muhlenberg College psychology professor Jeff Rudski.

So where do we turn to find a way out of this emotional mess? What other writers can help heal us as a reading nation?

“I think the whole book world is looking for the answer to that question,” said Earlee Young, a bookseller at the Coeur d’Alene Borders Books. “There are no authors out there who are generating the stir that she did.”

Not to be put off, we put the query to a few local librarians and bookstore employees. Here is what they said.

Sheri Miller

Youth services manager, Whitman County Library

Miller, who says that there are nearly 400 fantasy titles in her overall collection, suggests that younger readers (age 7 to 12) might like Tony Abbott’s “The Secrets of Droon” series.

“It’s an easier read than ‘Harry Potter,’ ” Miller said. “There are so many to choose from, and they’re not as lengthy.”

Of the 30 books in the “Droon” series (so far), the most recent – “Escape from Jabar-Loo” (Scholastic Paperbacks) – is only 128 pages long.

Other suggestions: “Gregor the Overlander” by Suzanne Collins (“Underland Chronicles”), “Midnight for Charlie Bone” by Jenny Nimmo (“Children of the Red King” series), “Dragon Slayers’ Academy” series by Kate McMullan, “The Dragonslayers” by Bruce Coville, “Bright Shadow” by Avi, “Circle of Magic” series by Tamora Pierce.

Sally Chilson

Youth services coordinator, Spokane Public Library

Chilson opts for British author Angie Sage’s “Septimus Heap” series, which comprises “Magyk,” “Flyte” and “Physik.” While language purists might not like the intentional misspellings, Potter fans might relate to Sage’s characters the way they have to Rowling’s.

“It’s a similar story,” Chilson said. “Septimus is a boy who doesn’t know his true identity and goes through all sorts of mystical journeys.”

Other suggestions: “The Bartimaeus Trilogy” (“The Amulet of Samarkand,” “The Golem’s Eye,” “Ptolemy’s Gate”) by Jonathan Stroud, “Percy Jackson” series (“The Lightning Thief,” “The Sea of Monsters,” “The Titan’s Curse”) by Rick Riordan.

Mary Ellen Braks

One of two youth services supervisors

for Spokane County Library

Sticking with the mystical theme, Braks suggests Irish author Eoin Colfer’s “Artemis Fowl” series, which centers on the child prodigy/criminal mastermind Artemis Fowl II.

“It’s fairies and magic,” said Braks, “not so much magic.”

Other suggestions: Fourth grade and up, “Poppy” by Avi (“This series follows the adventures of Poppy, a little deer mouse, who moves the family next to a cornfield big enough to feed them forever”); fifth grade and up, “So You Want to be a Wizard” (first in the “Young Wizards Series”) by Diane Duane (“Follow Nita, who discovers the wizarding world as she is trying to escape a gang of bullies”); older teens, “Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants” by Anne Brashares (“Four best girlfriends spend the biggest summer of their lives enchanted by a magical pair of pants”).

Jan Baker

Assistant manager, NorthTown Mall Barnes & Noble

“Dragons and fairies are really popular,” Baker said, “but there are a lot of good books out there right now.”

For the very young (ages 4 to 8), for example, she recommends the “Magic Tree House” series by Mary Pope Osborne. But the title that appeals best to younger and older readers, she says, is Christopher Paolini’s “Eragon.”

“In our particular store, we’ve done very well with teen crossover,” Baker said. “In fact, we carry ‘Eragon’ in our teen section.”

Other suggestions: The second book in Paolini’s “Inheritance” series (“Eldest”), “Inkspell” by Cornelia Funke.

Lindsey Reiswig

Children’s coordinator, Auntie’s Bookstore

After running through many of the other books and authors mentioned above, Reiswig suggested Philip Pullman’s “His Dark Materials Trilogy,” which includes “The Golden Compass,” “The Subtle Knife” and the “Amber Spyglass”.

“There’s a movie version of the first one that’s supposed to be coming out at Christmas,” Reiswig said. “But the book is very imaginative and the story has a lot of depth.”

Other suggestions: “The Land of Elyon” series (“The Dark Hills Divide,” “Beyond the Valley of Thorns,” “The Tenth City”) by Walla Walla author Patrick Carman, “The Alchemyst: The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel” by Michael Scott.

Earlee Young

Bookseller, Coeur d’Alene Borders Books

Young’s feeling is that the only real way to follow Rowling’s “Harry Potter” series is to go back to basics. That’s why she feels comfortable suggesting such older series as “Nancy Drew,” the novels of Roald Dahl (“James and the Giant Peach,” “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory”) and Gertrude Chandler Warner’s “Boxcar Children” series.

Overall, though, Young tries simply to “get people to go in a different direction” and try new genres so that they’ll maintain the energy that Rowling helped create.

” ‘Harry’ got children reading,” Young said. “It’s up to us to keep it going.”

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